Every religion on earth has some form of mindfulness and meditation. In the Hindu tradition, this practice is sometimes accompanied with yoga.
Yoga and Meditation work together because yoga helps the yogi to prepare for meditation. In meditation traditions, the restless mind is often called the monkey mind because the brain tends to jump from thought to thought like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. Our minds are constantly busy, worrying, making lists, looking forwards and backwards, rarely in the moment. Meditation seeks to bring the mind into the moment by focusing on the breath. Yoga’s original purpose was to prepare the practitioner for meditation. By doing the asanas, not only is the body stretched and limbered so it holds the meditation position, the breathwork of yoga prepares the mind to be calm and ready to focus.
Many people give up on meditation before they even have a chance to see its benefits. Yoga practice can help you to settle into meditation, preparing you by helping you to become quiet and relaxed so you can sit and be still.
How Meditation Changes Your Brain
Meditation is not an easy discipline to take up, but it is one with so many benefits, it is worth the effort. Studies are revealing how this ancient practice changes the brain, increasing gray matter and creating new neural pathways.
Studies have shown that there is an increase of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex responsible for planning, problem solving and emotional regulation. The hippocampus has also been shown to increase in gray matter. This area of the brain, which is where memory and learning takes place, is very susceptible to stress and anxiety. The amygdala, which is the location of the fight or flight response we experience during stressful events has been shown to shrink in size with regular mediations. What is more, the connectedness between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is decreased, allowing for a greater ability to be less reactive and allows for greater connection in the brain with higher functioning areas.
Meditation should not be done with the idea that it is a task that needs to be accomplished. Rather it is a practice that is practiced. With every 30-minute session of meditation, you are retraining and rewiring your brain, gaining deeper peace and stability along with more ability to handle stressful situations.
Using yoga as a warm up to meditation makes it more effective. Allow yoga and meditation to work together. By moving from yoga to mediation, you make your yoga practice settle deeper and you are able to use yoga to move you into a more meditative state more efficiently. So, don’t just hop up from your yoga practice and be on your way. Take time to be still, be present, and observe your breath. Allow your mind to be quiet and enjoy the benefits meditation can bring to your life.